For most, bicycle-riding season ended a couple months ago. For us, it has just begun.
I previously chronicled my long, unsuccessful history in trying to teach my son to ride a bicycle. For the longest time, Kai had neither the inclination nor, apparently, the ability to ride a bike.
My own attempts to teach him resulted mostly in mutual frustration. And so, this past summer, we enrolled him in a bicycle riding class for kids with special needs. There, he made a little progress, but by the time the class ended, he was still using training wheels and had little interest in riding.
One day my wife mentioned our bicycle failures to Kai’s swim instructor. James told her that he felt confident that he could teach Kai to ride a bike.
The first ‘impossible’ dream: learning to swim
James had taught Kai to swim after we had nearly given up hope that he ever would. Two years of swim lessons with other instructors had gone nowhere. Kai was still afraid of going in the water and mostly just clung to the nearest adult in the pool.
But James was able to get Kai’s attention when no other swim instructor seemed able to. He had a commanding personality. He knew how to motivate Kai.
James used Kai’s love of numbers to his advantage. He gave him rules with numbers so that Kai would always remember how to kick, breathe and use his arms. When Kai was fearful, he would distract him by quizzing him with math problems.
It wasn’t easy. In the first weeks, we had to literally drag Kai kicking and screaming into the health club where his lessons were. My wife was so embarrassed by the scenes Kai caused that she left it up to me to take him there.
After a few weeks, the screaming dissipated. Then, gradually, Kai started to enjoy going to the pool. After awhile he started to swim, first with the help of a flotation device, but then totally independently.
Now, Kai can’t get enough of the water. And he has become a better swimmer than I am.
So, when James told my wife that he could also teach Kai how to ride a bike, we decided to let him try.
Tackling the next ‘impossible’ dream: riding a bike
In the early bike lessons, James ran alongside as Kai peddled, and kept him from falling by holding a bar attached to Kai’s bike.
Gradually, Kai’s balance improved. After a couple months, my wife told me that Kai was riding well so I went to see for myself. I saw Kai riding with James running behind the bike and not holding on. Kai was able to ride a bike on his own.
As a guy, it is humbling to know that another man succeeded where you have failed miserably.
But my personal pride did not matter when I saw my son doing something that we thought might be impossible for him.
Our first family bike ride
It had been my wife’s dream that one day the three of us would ride bicycles together. For the longest time, we thought that dream would never be realized.
So you can imagine how giddy my wife and I felt as we went out together for our first ride.
I helped Kai get started – a little push and he was off. My wife went next while I grabbed my bike, got on and caught up to them.
Kai was riding. He was really riding. And we were riding with him.
We rode a couple of miles to the end of the path at Centennial Park. After a short break, we turned around and rode back.
The distance we covered was not great. The time we rode for was not long. But the realization of a dream cannot be measured in miles or minutes.
Though the calendar has turned to December, and the cold weather is hitting, we are trying to get in a few more rides this year.
Like a great novel you don’t want to end, we are savoring this moment for as long as we can.